Leg Panel the color of raw steak discoloring once it's exposed to the air slides on its runner, crosscutting fibres bunched into fascicles sheathed with elastin that shift like amoebas, contract, clinch, then dilate again. Panel after panel, runners underfoot and thickness of panels decreasing. A click, something catches. Or caught, something releases and scrapes to the opposite wall. This fleshly corridor can’t go on much longer: the panels can get no thinner. The thought of hiding once I’m out, the reason not to hide. Never did I present agoraphobia, or tendencies . . . say, vampiric. No symptoms of anemia. Never was a bleeder, in any sense. I have to keep my nerve. It's all that separates me from my surroundings. My leg feels . . . feels like. Prologue Taking life one rescue animal at a time: two guys. As a girl, she kind of said. I just want you to like me, just want. Modified search: television or tv guide. Symbols. Violence. Adult content, themes. Cable knit sweater. Inner Life Scroll 1. Naked out of the ditch of tall, overgrown weeds, I feel the lawn soft as deep pile under my sooty feet, but my soles continue to pound with the memory of blacktop, and the building I couldn't find then, in my dream, I can't, following the same directions, find now, the well-watered lawn soft as deep pile, soft as the carpeting in the corridor his directions were to follow. The corridor was lined with doors and made of breezeblocks painted white, just like the whitewashed building I was searching for in my dream when he gave me directions, his ruddy complexion bled ashen by deep forest green shirt. 2. Still wearing the green shirt. Still standing at attention on the manicured, rolling lawn. He gives no sign of having seen me earlier, when I walked out the door and dazzled by the pool’s expanse of choppy glare looked over my shoulder at where he was standing on the terrace, laughing. His wet, curly red locks across white as alabaster brow, he leaned forward, over the banister . . . an expansive, sweeping gesture— Going back the way I came, the carpet in the corridor again . . . even though the doors aren't numbered I know I'm not in the building I'm looking for. 3. How cold I am inside her house at dusk, after the sun’s gone down but it’s yet light out on the lawn, how objects and colors withdraw outside floor-to-ceiling windows: red tile of patio and dirty stucco wall I can’t see over to see the lawn sloping down to the man I can’t see. What would one of her guests say if they walked in and saw me standing naked in her kitchen? Her kitchen broken into and entered? 4. Not expected by the guests who have gathered to listen to her play her guitar, I find the quilt she’s left folded in half behind the planter filled with plastic bamboo and white rocks that sparkle in the little available light. I find an opened pack of cigarettes missing only one cigarette. As the tempo picks up I know I can wait for her guests to leave. Hearing the tempo pick up, will her girlfriend take the hint and leave? Take the hint and stay? 5. In the morning I discover she’s made the quilt into a summer robe and sash. During the pregame ceremony on tv, dutifully standing erect as he waits, one in a row at midfield: his white hair a stiff, spiky, moussed shock, bright, polished brown leather brogues dipped in sharp blades of smooth meadow lawn grass: the green shirt he wore bled his flushed features; he’s hale and hearty in navy blazer and khaki pants. Italicized Primitive Shakespeare and Eliot paid attention. Reading “Prufrock,” I think he was an empathetic man, who paid attention. Shakespeare goes on too long: paying attention in clear apposition to being considerate, thinking of others. Paying attention displaces the empathy. A man like Eliot needs a poem, else to what end all his feeling? Would not sympathy cloud his attention? And doesn’t his art keep them distinct, separate, a good thing? Like dug-out canoes to an island going low and fast, lined with fire-hardened mud. Can you hear the drums? Hands beating plastic five gallon buckets. See the mincing water? Gary Cooper Versus the Heavy in Josef Von Sternberg's Desire, the two men, seated at opposite ends of a table much longer than wide, backs of their chairs to the edges of screen, face off at dinner, Marlene in the middle, her eyes on her plate, which is empty and clean and as white as an egg. Engineer Tom, a fantastically long leg under said table, kicks the revolver from closeup of rival's exquisitely downy and feminine hand, who’s relaxed and reclined in his chair that he's scooted some distance away from the table as Mr. Antagonist is: Gary Cooper the bigger phallus, a bigger phallus than the petty gangster, without his moll and on the lam. What a gloomy woman Dietrich must have been in real life, playing the muse for von Sternberg: imagine yourself as a girl who is having menarche, when Ginsberg finds out and composes a poem, reciting it outside the door to the bathroom you've buttressed against his uniquely misguidedly gay, Jewish attempt to commemorate the momentous occasion. Every day she wakes up, goes to work and wonders What the hell have I got into? In her '76 farewell television broadcast she sang “I Wish You Love,” a small delicate gesture nobody needed. During her performance in the nightclub in Morocco Dietrich saunters over to a table of well-dressed whites. Choosing a woman she lifts up her chin and then kisses her on the mouth. The woman hides her face in her hands as the other patrons laugh and shriek. Cooper could be a chair, in his chair. Dietrich moved through her scenes, delivered lines, and burned the contours of every gesture like a fuse. Wheat Will Grow Tall In Rich Soil, But That Doesn't Mean It Will Yield More, Or Ambiguity And The Rod Of Correction In The Heartland People who hate me I meet half-way up or down the abstract steps I didn’t bother to demonstrate once I solved for the independent variable, mathematical steps these people are always confident, had I done them, would've saved me being wrong, derided, cringed over and laughed at: champions of me showing my work. Sheila Pounding her fist on the door, her bracelet of wooden beads laps like seeds inside a gourd. Like Sheila’s husband, I married Sheila. Wondering how many times we’ve been married, or in how many different ways, yields not one answer only, but—like my silence—multitudes.
Mark Parsons received his MFA from the University of Arizona. His poems have recently been published or are forthcoming in Dalhousie Review, The Floor Plan, North Dakota Quarterly, Antigonish Review, Chariton Review, and Cobalt Review. He lives in Tokyo, Japan.